The following letter was sent to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.
At the January hearing on Ahold-Stop & Shop’s expansion proposal, Geoghan Coogan stated, and not for the first time, that there is really only one way for Ahold to design a supermarket in the United States, and that one is premised on increased automobile traffic, because all Americans like to drive to supermarkets. This is, in fact, the obvious premise of the Ahold-Stop & Shop design. Applying pressure on communities to change their traffic patterns (as is occurring in Tisbury regarding the municipal parking lot) is also a standard M.O. for Ahold-Stop & Shop (see “Supermarket Will Create Traffic Nightmare,” Northjersey.com, Nov. 15, 2013).
At this juncture in the January hearing, commissioner Joan Malkin asked Mr. Coogan to provide some fresh input on other ways to design a supermarket, or perhaps just a market, in a densely used urban environment. I am not aware that Mr. Coogan has done this, so I am providing some input on an award-winning design in Minneapolis (thanks to Hyung Lee for drawing my attention to this). “Store of the Month: It Takes a Retail Village” (Progressive Grocer, August 5, 2013) describes an urban approach to a grocery store development that is very appropriate also to the Tisbury downtown site (see links to both items at MVCommission.org, Calendar, March 20, correspondence).
Naturally the Lund’s market in Minneapolis does not supply a blueprint design for Tisbury. But it can be seen as providing a blueprint approach to this type of design and business challenge. Note especially the commitment to working with, not against, public mass transit and the biking community. Working with, not against, local producers. Working with, not against, local artisans. In sum, working with, not against, the local interest not just for a refurbished market but for one that might be a candidate for a design award. Tisbury and the Vineyard deserve the urban award-winner, not the suburban-mall-anchor big-box concept and accompanying traffic snarl-up.
In my letter to the commission of Oct. 2, 2013, I wrote:
“The objective of the parking lot design committee appointed by the selectmen is murky to me. . . . The existence of this design committee creates confusion by establishing a parallel planning track. . . . It looks as though the objective of the design committee will end up being an ‘endorsement’ of a Stop & Shop-preferred parking lot plan.”
This view is certainly lent credence by the thrust of some members of the design committee, from the very first meeting on, to achieve “consensus” on removal of the public comfort station (and the town generator) from the parking lot and thus to clear the way for the trailer bays to be located where Ahold-Stop & Shop has, since March 2013, insisted they must be and the repeated privileging of designs created by Ahold-Stop & Shop’s consultant, VHB.
The jury is in regarding the fact that the committee has created more problems than it has solved or can solve — the Gazette calls the situation a chicken-and-egg conundrum, commissioner Ned Orleans called it a charade, and others call it a catch-22. One selectman privately labels the parking lot design committee “a disaster” (he is in favor of the retention of the public comfort station in any parking lot scenario).
My view, based on the information that I have had access to, is that the process of the Ahold-Stop & Shop proposal was compromised from the beginning with hidden premises and promises and bottom lines, and only became more so with the advent of the parking lot design committee, when another agenda or two entered the mix. The commission should put an end to the general agony and take a vote on Ahold-Stop & Shop’s proposal as soon as possible: Vote no on the proposal and no on the process. Instruct Ahold-Stop & Shop to return with a site and Vineyard-appropriate proposal that keeps all of their activities on the large site that they have assembled for their business, with access from Water street only.
Thank you for considering my views.